From very early on, Martin Schmidt knew he was adopted. His adoptive parents didn’t have any interest in lying to him. When he turned 18, his adoptive parents, William and Cynthia Schmidt provided him with the paperwork he needed to find his biological parents. But even though he knew his birth parents were out there somewhere, he didn’t make the decision to search for them until he was about to become a parent himself.
Before he became a father, he “didn’t push it.” And he didn’t really feel the need to anyway. After all, “They absolutely loved me like I was biologically born. I have a great family,” Martin said. But once his life was about to become drastically different, and he was about to embark on fatherhood, he had the urge to find his familial roots once and for all. And he never in a million years expected to go down the path he went on.
Taking the First Steps
Martin Schmidt, now a 38-year-old road foreman for Gunnison County in Colorado, said that when he found out that his wife, Carin, was pregnant in 2014, everything changed. They were going to have their firstborn son, whom they would name Malcolm, and as Martin put it, it “kind of pushed the issue. It made me want to meet the rest of the family I didn’t know.”
Martin went ahead and made the first steps. First, he initiated contact through the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, which got in touch with his biological mother, Michele Newman. At that point in time, Michele was living in Hilo, Hawaii and working at a family services non-profit organization.
Two Strangers Meeting for the First Time
Michele was working with men who experienced or were accused of domestic violence. She happened to be on her lunch break when she received the call. Her immediate response was to burst into tears. “It was immediate waterworks,” she described of the moment. “I called my mom. Then I went back to work and told my boss, ‘I’ve got to go home for the rest of the day.’”
Within a few days, she and her biological son Martin were already speaking to each other on the phone. “It was just incredible and overwhelming to hear his voice,” Michele said. As she explained it, they were two strangers, meeting for the first time, yet they already had this deep emotional bond.
High School Lovers
The two clearly had a lot to catch up on. Michele told Martin about the day he was born (35 years earlier), which happened during a severe snowstorm that kept Michele from leaving the hospital for days. You see, Michele is actually quite young. She was 52 when she got the call about Martin, which means she was just a high school junior when her son was born.
She and Martin’s biological father, a man named Dave Lindgren, grew up in the small farming community of Loyal, Wisconsin. The young couples’ families were close. Dave, however, was a few years older than his high school lover.
An Isolating Experience
In addition to being a high school student himself, he was also working at a dairy plant. The two were dating for several months but split up before Michele ever realized she was pregnant. “There was never any real bitterness between us,” Michele revealed. “Dave was a good man with a good heart, and we were both doing things we shouldn’t have.”
Still, although there wasn’t any resentment or bitterness and her family was nothing but supportive, the experience was nonetheless difficult for Michele. Having a baby at such a young age was isolating. Years later, after giving birth and giving her son up for adoption, she graduated from high school.
She Always Wondered About Him
Following graduation, Michele left town and embarked on a nomadic lifestyle, traveling around and living in different cities in different states, including Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, and finally Hawaii. She eventually married twice but had no other children. “I had always wondered about Martin,” she admitted.
Once she heard from Martin, she felt that something special was happening. “I felt so blessed that this happened in my life at 50-something years old.” A few weeks later, Michele was still putting the pieces together in her head. “I was thinking about who I am and where life had taken me… It had been 35 years, and I hadn’t spoken to Dave since I told him I was pregnant.”
An Unexpected Text Message
But considering that she was aware that Dave, then 55, had clearly consented to open the adoption file, then Martin must have spoken to him already. After mulling it over for a while, Michele finally decided to reach out to her long-lost lover from all those years ago. She wanted to reach out as she was curious to know what he was feeling.
“My plan was just to send him a text,” Michele explained. When he got her text message, Dave was five hours ahead and was already getting ready for bed in his home in Marshfield, Wisconsin. It was an odd area code and number, Dave explained, so he ignored it at first.
Meant to Be a Dad
“Once I realized who it was, we texted back and forth a few times,” Dave said. He then asked Michele if he could give her a call. A lot has happened over the decades for both Michele and Dave. Since they last spoke, he had married three times and became a father to three more children of his own, as well as four stepchildren.
According to Dave, he was “always meant to be a dad.” Dave hung around in central Wisconsin and worked his way up to becoming the plant manager at Lynn Dairy. A self-proclaimed “milk and cheese obsessive,” he is also proud to claim that he’s certified as a master cheesemaker.
What He Thought Would be a Short Conversation…
The master cheesemaker was certified through the University of Wisconsin, specializing in Cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and provolone. (Gotta love cheese, right?) But anyway, back to that first text message from Michele on that day in December. As he found himself communicating with his high school sweetheart, he realized that he still hadn’t gotten a call from Martin.
There’s a reason for that, though. “I was spacing out the calls a bit for the emotional load,” Martin said. Martin may have been taking his time, but Dave was eager to hear from and about his son. When he first spoke to Michele on the phone, he expected his conversation with her to be a short one…
Turned Out to Be the Beginning of Something Special
Yet, four hours later, at 2 a.m., Dave finally got off the phone and noted to himself that there was still so much more to say. It was only a matter of days until the two spoke on the phone again. And then, they discovered that they just couldn’t stop talking. Dave learned about the many jobs Michele held before moving permanently to Hawaii in her 40s.
He learned that she had earned her undergraduate degree as well as a Master’s in counseling psychology. He also discovered her passion for advocating for victims of sexual assault and individuals struggling with addiction. But Michele wasn’t the only one with tons of information to divulge. Dave told her all about himself, too.
Children, Divorce, and Other Commonalities
Dave told her all about what it was like for him to go through a divorce – something they both had in common – and about his children and the comings and goings of his large extended family. “We had long, deep discussions,” Michele said. “We were going through all these serious life topics. We became very close that way.”
Soon, the two were talking to each other every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Then, one day, Dave brought it up: “You know, I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii.” Considering that Dave was in the middle of a divorce, and Michele knew it, she didn’t think it would be a romantic thing.
An Instant Connection
Without the pressure of a possible relationship, Michele had no reservations about having Dave come to visit. She told him she would be happy to show him around the Big Island. As for Dave, though, his mind – and heart – was leaning more in the direction of rekindling a love that had been lost many years ago. For him, there was an “instant connection.”
Sure, he was interested in Hawaii, but he hadn’t had any intention of traveling there. But now that Michele was from there, it was a whole different story. He purchased two tickets for the trip — for himself and for his nephew Nate, who could serve as both a travel partner and a potential buffer.
This Is It
Michele picked up some traditional leis and drove to the airport to meet them. When she saw Dave walking down the escalator toward her, it was as if something shifted. She later admitted that at that point, her heart must have already been “halfway there.” The minute she saw him, she thought to herself, “Oh my god.”
She wasn’t alone. He felt it too. “I could just tell,” Dave said. “This is it.” At the airport, they gave each other a hug, then a kiss. And from there, “it took over from us being 16 and 17 years old again,” as Dave put it. The visit to Hawaii proved to be a romantic success.
4,000 Miles and Five Hours Apart
The two ate sushi, went swimming with manta rays, went on a tour of a volcano – things were near heavenly between them. But both Dave and Michele were worried about what might happen next. After all, they were both acutely aware that Dave had to head home soon. “I’ve never had that hard of a time leaving anywhere,” he said. “I was worried I might not ever see her again.”
Still, he flew back home, and even with some 4,000 miles and five hours distance between them, the two continued to talk every day. And aside from each other, they were each in contact with the very person who brought them back together: their son Martin.
A New, Warm Family
Martin was actually having other new conversations, too. He started hearing from other biological family members, including both of his grandmothers. Martin was making new connections to the family he belonged to by blood. He and his own family were now learning of their extended family. They were getting cards and presents for birthdays.
“That warmth has made it really simple to become part of the family.” A few months after Dave’s trip to Hawaii, Michele made a big decision – one that she never would have predicted just months prior. She decided to move back to Wisconsin for good. But apparently, it wasn’t just about Dave. Or so she said…
A Powerful Moment
“I wanted to be closer to my mom,” Michelle explained. “And I just started to feel Hawaii wasn’t the place for me to be anymore.” There was also another very important reason for her to make the move. She was beyond eager to meet her long-lost son. And so, she packed her stuff and flew to the mainland, meeting her mother, Kay Schaefer, in Portland, Oregon.
The two then headed out on a road trip to Wisconsin, with a stop in Colorado. There was someone she just had to see immediately. Yes, of course, she went to see Martin. “She drove to me first,” Martin said. “It’s a powerful moment to give a hug to your birth mom.”
A Strange Yet Natural Scenario
It was during this visit that Martin learned about the budding, nearly established romance unfolding between his biological parents. A strange yet totally natural scenario was taking place. His birth parents, who had split up long ago under certain circumstances, were now rekindling their love, all thanks to him! It was surreal.
Martin recalled seeing a picture of Dave and Michele in Hawaii that he posted on Facebook. He thought, “There’s definitely something happening here.” But it was only during Michele’s visit to see him at his home that he understood that her moving back to Wisconsin meant this relationship with Dave could really work. As thrilling as these new developments were, a select few were worried.
There Are Always the Naysayers
The developing relationship between the 50-somethings worried some of Michele’s family, at first. Her sister, Teri Bruna, said that once she heard of Dave and Michele dating again, she thought it was “really bizarre.” She was also shocked to see her sister move back to Wisconsin, considering that “Michele hates the cold.”
Then again, Teri couldn’t help but admit that she likes Dave. And since he’s “probably the nicest guy on the planet” and that he “makes [her] sister happy,” she would be willing to get over the “bizarre” aspect of it all and be happy for them. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t make her thoughts known to Dave.
Their First Grandchild
After all, she couldn’t forget the situation that brought everyone together in the first place. Teri told Dave at one point: “You weren’t my favorite person. If you hurt her again, I’m going to kill you!” It didn’t take long, though, for their families to see that the couple’s love was growing. And with that, their families grew close again, too.
Let’s not forget that when these two were young, and their families were very close! Dave’s mother, Edna, said of Michele’s mother, Kay: “She was one of the first people I met when we bought the farm.” Martin became the first grandchild for both her and Kay. “You can’t forget that,” she said.
He Wanted to Marry His Sweetheart
Dave and Michele moved in together, and on December 12, 2015, precisely one year after she had sent that fateful first text message, Dave proposed. Believe it or not, she protested at first. They had both been married more than once, so reservations are only natural. Michele said she felt marriage was unnecessary since they knew how they felt about each other.
She told him, “We’re old. We don’t need this.” But Dave insisted: “I want to marry my sweetheart.” Michele basically had no choice but to give in. So, on the first Saturday in August of 2016, they got married in a casual backyard affair at their home in Marshfield, Wisconsin.
The Best Day of Her Life
About 100 guests attended, including Martin, his wife, and their young children, Malcolm and Willow. Michele, who was raised Roman Catholic, had converted to Judaism when she married her second husband, so their wedding was held in a Jewish fashion, with a chuppah made of tall branches and a lace tablecloth from her grandmother.
Michele made a toast to her family and friends, saying, “With every blessing, there’s some sadness. But I wouldn’t change any of this at all. The day that I got the call that Martin wanted to reach out to us was the best day of my life. And it’s just gotten better every day after that.”
Ordained by the Church of the Latter-Day Dude
The groom made his thoughts known, too, saying, “I never thought in a million years this would happen,” Dave stated. “It’s just awesome.” The wedding, by the way, had one special feature. That is, their son – the one who brought the bride and groom together – officiated the ceremony.
He had actually been ordained several years earlier, on a lark, by the Church of the Latter-Day Dude. Yes, that’s right. For all The Big Lebowski fans, there really is an online church of that name. Michele is actually a “cool mom,” whose favorite movie is The Big Lebowski. Martin grinned and began the ceremony: “For those of you who haven’t met me, I’m Martin Schmidt. I’m their son… And related or not, this is the group of people we call family.”
Next, is another true story about a long-lost child reuniting with his birth parents. But his story ends in a very different way.